You're either pro-camping or anti-camping--in my experience, there is no middle ground. You either find the idea of spending a night in the "great outdoors," engulfed by all that is nature (bugs! trees! squirrels!) idillic or akin to punishment. This article is for both camps (ha). Because even if you're not into camping--and note, I do mean actual camping, not glamping--there's something great to be said about cooking outside.
In the wild (or campsite), you're stripped down to the essentials. You have to work with what what you brought. Only cook from what you have. While you can't order pizza and call it a night, you can make fire-roasted potatoes with some embers and aluminum foil (more on this later). You can grill sausages, peppers, and onions then take it all in eating underneath a blanket of night sky.
While camping itself might not always be well, as awesome as you might hope, this kind of cooking is. It's a test of resourcefulness and planning, and ultimately produces an exceptionally rewarding meal. That said, the equipment you bring along will make or break your camp cooking success, so you'll need to pack well.
Here are the 13 essential pieces of cooking equipment you'll need for camping (and eating) well when surrounded by nothing but nature:
1.) Cast-Iron Skillet: Once it's seasoned, oh the places you and your cast-iron skillet will go. I use my cast-iron for everything while camping, from skillet-roasted potatoes to pancakes. Plus, a cast-iron retains heat better than most other pans for more even cooking.
2.) A Fish Spatula: Thin enough (and perfectly angled) to flip fried eggs, yet sturdy enough for chicken or steak, a fish spatula is your workhorse utensil--in fact, a fish spatula will be your able-bodied workhorse in a normal kitchen scenario too. All the same, this is the only spatula you need for your outdoor adventure.
3.) Camping Stove: Depending on what your camping situation is (and how much of an investment you want to make), you'll want to look into a single-burner or 2-burner camping stove—and some extra propane.
4.) Aluminum Foil: You might be saying "duh," but, seriously, aluminum foil is everything to a camping cook. You can wrap potatoes—along with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil—in a sheet of foil, bury them in the campfire's embers, and let them roast until tender. You can do the same with onions, carrots, zucchini, and any other vegetable you'd typically roast, too. Also, foil keeps food warm (and bugs out).
5.) Cutting Boards: You'll want to pack one or 2 durable ones. I usually opt to bring plastic boards, since they're light to pack, flexible, and easy to move around the campsite.
6.) Knives: Bring the knives you use and love, but not the whole kit. A chef's knife and a paring knife will be plenty.
7.) Metal Tongs: Durable and perfect for grabbing those aforementioned potatoes out of the embers, turning corn on the cob, flipping chicken, and anything else that's too H-O-T to touch.
8.) Multi-Tool: I have this one. It opens cans and bottles. It has pliers, scissors, screwdrivers, and knife and is much more than I'll ever need. But, less tools, less problems, amiright?
9.) A Lightweight Pot: For boiling water for coffee, cooking oatmeal, simmering soup, and all that good stuff.
10.) Cups, Bowls, Plates, and Utensils: This is obvious. Make them cheap and preferably not glass. No one wants to break something in the great outdoors! As far as utensils go, the spork is where it's at. No, really: It's a spoon AND a fork, which means less utensils. Camping's all about efficiency.
11.) A Cooler: You can find many articles on many sites telling you which cooler is the best for your money. This is not one of those. Bring your favorite cooler. If it keeps stuff cold, it's good enough.
12.) A Tub: A large, waterproof tub is perfect for stashing dried goods. I bring two: one for food and the other for cooking equipment.
13.) Dish Soap and a Copper Pot Scrubber: Of course you're gonna need to clean–and a copper pot scrubber makes it easier to do so. The copper removes any burnt-on foods with ease, which, when cooking over a fire or an unfamiliar heat source, is prone to happen.